Who’s the ‘average’ runner? A Gauteng accountant aged 41

2012-06-02 00:00

THE cut and thrust for gold, trophies and the R300 000 first prize at the pointed end of the Comrades may excite and attract the enthusiast, but it is down the field that gives the great race its sustainability.

Although just under 16 000 runners have qualified to collect their registration at the Bonitas Expo, over 19 524 runners made their provisional entries last year. This included a total of 1 411 foreigners; with 1 168 coming from overseas. This is a real increase in international competitors even from the 85th commemorative Down Run in 2010, which found its way into the Guinness book of Records with 23 522 initial entries.

Tomorrow morning — after accounting for those who fail to register or withdraw due to illness or injury — some 14 500 runners, with an average age of around 41 years, will toe the line at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall.

Based on the provided statistics, the typical runner is likely to be a manager or accountant based in central Gauteng who is returning to run another Comrades Marathon.

However, the Comrades statistics, together with those of the Two Oceans Marathon in April, provide a commentary on the changing dynamics in the sport of road running in what equates to the state-of-the-nation address.

Direct comparison between the stats provided by CMA for 2010 and 2012, although containing anomalies, show an increase in the number of self-employed runners who have moved from the 16th most popular occupation to eighth; drivers, who have entered the top 20 for the first time and, importantly, students who have helped reduce the average age and are now 19th on the listing.

At the other end of the scale, the class of 2012 includes 45 runners aged 70-79 and four over 80, with a total of 732 runners over 60; which is a nominal reduction.

Apart from an increase in Lesotho runners from ages 21 to 37, which will probably impact on the top end of the race, there has been little change in the country representation, with UK, U.S., Australia and Brazil commanding the top four positions and accounting for 786 runners.

Provincially, Central Gauteng took the lead in producing Comrades runners in 2010 and have maintained and extended their lead for 2012, with KwaZulu-Natal staying in second, but losing further ground to Gauteng North.

This drop in KZN participation is no doubt a reflection of the past turmoil and fraud and corruption investigations in the previous provincial administration, and something the newly-elected executive, under Sello Moekena, is addressing.

As late as last week the new executive confirmed the suspension of a previous provincial, Comrades technical delegate, and Comrades board member, Celi Makhoba, pending a disciplinary hearing on fraud charges.

Durban’s Stella running club, in seventh spot, has become the leading KZN club, ahead of Chatsworth, but both have dropped down the list compared to perennial league leaders Rand Athletics Club, with 497 members.

This year’s shoe count also highlights the change in running style, with brands such as Saucony and Adidas, who have promoted more natural running styles, increasing their positions and percentages against the more established Asics.

From 5.30 am tomorrow the Comrades Marathon will be fought out on the road between Pietermaritzburg to Durban, but at the same time there will be a trail of humanity behind the leaders who not only sustain the event, but provide a statement on a changing society and health of the nation.

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